Supreme Court Hosts First Statewide Pro Bono Summit

January 25, 2011

Attorneys and Community Leaders Pledge to Increase Pro Bono Efforts

Nashville , Tenn. - The Tennessee Supreme Court hosted the first ever statewide pro bono summit Friday as part of the Court’s ongoing efforts to improve access to justice in the state. More than 100 of the state’s top attorneys and community leaders attended the summit to discuss ways to increase pro bono efforts throughout the state.

The pro summit was one of the action items outlined in the Court’s Access to Justice strategic plan that was unveiled in June 2010.

In her remarks at the event, Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark cited pro bono service as “critical to each attorney’s fulfillment of his or her obligation to the profession” and encouraged attendees to answer the call to increase their pro bono efforts in 2011.

“If we are to have any hope of providing liberty and justice for all; then we must embrace, and celebrate, our obligation to devote professional time and civic influence on behalf of our brothers and sisters who need our help,” Clark said.

More than 60 attendees completed pledge cards outlining their commitments, ranging from serving on advisory committees to developing pro bono programs in their local communities. The Access to Justice Commission will be following up with each participant to check in on their progress with their commitments.

During the Summit, the Court also discussed how emerging technologies can be used to provide greater access to legal information and assistance. As part of this presentation, the Court offered a sneak peak at its new Justice for All website that will be launched in the coming months. Panelists also discussed how Skype, Facebook and other online tools could be used to reach people in rural areas that need legal assistance.

Access to Justice Commissioner Buck Lewis also unveiled a new website that will allow Tennesseans to receive free legal advice from volunteer lawyers across the state. The website, which will launch this spring, is a joint project by the Tennessee Bar Association and Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services.

The summit included a number of break-out sessions where participants addressed a number of topics, such as encouraging increased corporate pro bono program participation, providing legal services to rural areas, expanding assistance to those with language and intellectual disabilities, and collaborating with libraries, faith-based organizations and other community groups to provide needed services. The Access to Justice Commission will be compiling the ideas gathered from the sessions for further development in their sub-committees and next strategic plan.

William (Bill) T. Robinson, president-elect of the American Bar Association, also spoke at the event and commended the Court for its dedication to addressing the civil legal needs gap in Tennessee.

About the Access to Justice Initiative
In response to the growing civil legal needs gap in Tennessee, the Supreme Court made access to justice its number one strategic priority in 2008. The Court formally announced the Access to Justice Initiative in December 2008 and formed the Access to Justice Commission in April 2009. The Access to Justice Commission was tasked with creating a strategic plan, which was submitted to the Court on April 1, 2010. The strategic plan was unveiled in June 2010, which included plans for a pro bono summit and access to justice website.

Chief Justice Clark's Opening Speech

Chief Justice Clark's Closing Speech

Pro Bono Summit - Answering the Call - Presentations


Photos from the event:

Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark welcomes attendees to the pro bono summit. Also pictured are Justice Janice M. Holder, Justice G